recovery of the California Brown Pelican is a success story for
the Endangered Species Acts, (ESA), both federal and state. The
Channel Islands National Park boasts the only breeding area
for the endangered species. West Anacapa is the favored —
and protected — location for nesting sites, although other
Channel Islands host some pelican families.
In 1970, before the ESA and the banning
of DDT/DDE, and the understanding of the dangers that Rachel
Carson warned about, there was but a sole chick hatched. Recently,
more than 6,000 nesting attempts have been estimated. Still, though,
especially with the increase of human population along the California
coast with the related marine traffic and pollution, the handsome
birds's future is uncertain.
an excellent summary of what led to the recovery of the California
Brown Pelican, see the IBRRC
page, Pelicans in Peril, In Harm's Way. Pelicans, particularly,
suffered from the pesticide DDT because the birds hatch their eggs
by their vascularized feet. The weight of the large birds crushed
their now thin-shelled eggs. In 1969, 750 nests were found but only
four hatchlings. In 1970, there was only one chick.
This pattern was repeated throughout the range of the Brown Pelican.
In Louisiana, where the pelican is the state bird, the number of
Brown Pelicans was zero in 1961. Only recently, through introductions
from neighboring states — and the banning of DDT/DDE —
have the flocks returned. For a fascinating description of the plight
and recovery of the pelican in Louisiana, with mention also of the
research on DDT/DDE in the Los Angeles County area, click
silent spring that Rachel Carson portrayed had become already
real for countless seabirds. And then came the worldwide publicity
from the Santa Barbara oil disaster. The Union Oil spill of
1969 horrified and activated people out of a lotus land mentality:
the safety of the gentle sea lapping our beaches could no
longer be taken for granted.
Energized, Santa Barbara got to work and now justifiably claims
to be the birthplace of the environmental movement, birthing
GOO! (Get Oil Out!), stunning Union Oil president Fred Hartley
who said, "I am amazed at the publicity for the loss
of a few birds." For a good description with oil spill
photos from that time, visit the Santa
Barbara Wildlife Network.
Bird Treaty Act
Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 704) (MBTA) was the first major
statute that would protect seabirds. It provides that to "pursue,
hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess,
offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment,
ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport,
cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means
whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export,
at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the
terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds
. . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird” are prohibited
unless permitted by regulations.
It’s had various additions, incorporating different treaties,
cited also by the Endangered Species Act, and also permitting States
to adopt regulations for greater protection of migratory birds.
The Act with its subsequent admendments applies to government agencies
as well as non-governmental activity. See an analysis at BirdNet.
Also see a discussion
of the changes in the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 1998.
Both the California Brown Pelican and the American White Pelican
are included, along with most seabirds and shorebirds. Birds protected
under the Act and its amendments include all common songbirds, waterfowl,
shorebirds, hawks, owls, eagles, ravens, crows, native doves and
pigeons, swifts, martins, swallows and others, including their body
parts (feathers, plumes etc), nests, and eggs. For a
complete list of protected bird species, see: 50 CFR 10.13.
Also: note the exceptions for crows discussed in the FAQ about crows,
"Can Crows be shot legally": <http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm#legal>
The penalty possibilities for a felony conviction are fines up to
$250,000 ($500,000 for organizations) and imprisonment for not more
than 2 years. Misdemeanor convictions under the MBTA may bring fines
up to $15,000.
the Fish and Wildlife Service types and applicability of the various
migratory bird permits and the procedures and requirements for obtaining
and complying with a permit, click
For the final list of non-native migratory birds to which the treaty
does not apply, click here.
Habitat protection, however, is not part of the MBTA and it is the
degradation of the seabird habitat that is of especial concern.
Endangered Species Act
Act (ESA), passed by Congress in 1966, recognized the importance
of the nation's "heritage in fish, wildlife, and plants"
and and how they should be safeguarded "for the benefit of
It directly addressed the concern about habitat loss. The purposes
of the Act "are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon
which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved,
to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species
and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate
to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions ...."
(Sec. 2 (b))
its Findings of Section (2), Congress determined that "the
United States has pledged itself as a sovereign state in the international
community to conserve to the extent practicable the various species
of fish or wildlife and plants facing extinction, pursuant to:
(A) migratory bird treaties with Canada and Mexico;
(B) the Migratory and Endangered Bird Treaty with Japan;
(C) the Convention
on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere
(D) the International Convention for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries;
(E) the International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of
the North Pacific Ocean;
(F) the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora;
(G) other international agreements;
important part of the ESA is to encourage States — by means
of financial assistance and incentives — to develop and maintain
conservation programs which meet national and international standards.
That federal-state cooperation is key to meeting the Nation’s
international commitments and to better safeguarding, for the benefit
of all citizens, the Nation’s heritage in fish, wildlife and
for violation (ESA § 11): Criminal penalties of up to $50,000
or imprisonment for one year, or both, and civil penalties of up
to $25,000 per violation, may be assessed against a person who knowingly
violates...; there's a possible civil fine of $500 per violation.
See the Summary
of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, in the Federal Wildlife Laws
Endangered Species Act
California ESA parallels the federal law. Under CESA the term
"endangered species" is defined as a species of plant,
fish, or wildlife which is "in serious danger of becoming extinct
throughout all, or a significant portion of its range" and
is limited to species or subspecies native to California.
prohibits "taking" of an endangered species and to "take"
is defined in §86 of the Fish and Game Code "take"
as to "hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill, or attempt to
hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill." As with the ESA, there
are authorized exceptions allowed.
the ESA, there is no knowledge requirement; the Act states in §783.1
(a) No person shall import into this State, export out of this State
or take, possess, purchase, or sell within this State, any endangered
species, threatened species, or part or product thereof, or attempt
any of those acts, except as otherwise provided in the California
Endangered Species Act, Fish and Game Code Section 2050, et seq.
and jail sentences, may be imposed upon individuals who “take”
a state-listed species without appropriate permits and without California
Department of Fish and Game approval. Violations of the California
Endangered Species Act can include a criminal penalty of up to $5,000
and/or one year imprisonment for each violation, and a civil penalty
of up to $10,000 for each listed species taken.
2009: The proposed delisting of the California Brown Pelican
went into effect on February 6; click here for
the Initial Statement of Reasons. This has not been met with
the rejoicing one might imagine because of the problems the species
has met this winter. See the January and February news section
of this Web site and specifically the IBRRC
statement concerning the delisting.
wild bird protection laws
are a variety of laws and conventions protecting wild birds. For
an overview, click
here for the US Fish & Wildlife Guide to the Laws and Treaties
of the United States for Protecting Migratory Birds, noting the
distinction between habitat and population protections.
is no longer a major problem for the pelicans. The California
Brown Pelican flocks have returned to coastal waters, ranging
as far north, some summers, to Puget Sound. The concern for
wildlife, seabirds, including perhaps especially for the pelican,
the proud symbol of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network,
runs deep in the Santa Barbara area.
In late spring and summer, many of the new crop of youngsters,
all brown with white chests, just recently fledged and freshly
arrived on the mainland, cluster at Santa Barbara's Stearns
Wharf and other fishing piers along the coast. They hope for
an easy meal. But there's rarely a free lunch: many will suffer
from careless and occasionally cruel fishermen.
Santa Barbara's excellent Waterfront/Harbor
Department employees, led by Waterfront Director John Bridley
with Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman, have been proactive
with educational signage and efforts for proper fishline disposal.
(The city-designed sign at the right is one of several informational
signs in the harbor area.) The Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol
is in the forefront, assisting the volunteers of the SBWCN
in rescuing injured seabirds, untangling fishing line from
legs and wings, removing painful hooks, braving
Wildlife care volunteers up and and down the California Coast
work to rehabilitate and release to freedom pelicans from
injuries, domoic acid poisoning outbreaks and oil damage.
here and here in this site
for what you can do if you see an injured pelican or other
As deadly as fishing line can be, oil spills are a more serious
threat to the species's survival. Anacapa Island is the primary
California Brown Pelican breeding site. Although West Anacapa is
closed from January 1 to October 31 for nesting, the Santa Barbara
channel is a major route for oil tankers. The devastation of the
1969 Union Oil spill from the offshore platforms is fresh in local
memories. The oil
spilled in June, 2005, off a platform near Breton NWR shows
what damage even a relatively miniscule amount can do.
offshore oil leases are being talked about and LNG terminals are
being considered for southern California, including the Oxnard area,
not far from Anacapa. This winter an undetermined source oil spill/leakage
devastated thousands of seabirds, grebes and some pelicans, an unsettling
reminder that one major oil spill could eliminate most of the California
Brown Pelicans that have been so carefully restored to their ancestral
with supporting the rescue of individual injured birds, we all must
be vigilant to keep the coastal waters clean and pollution-free.
The survival of the DDT/DDE-bellweather bird, the California Brown
Pelican, depends upon us. For more information on the survival of
the California Brown Pelican, take a look at the informative IBRRC
(International Bird Rescue Research Center) site. They do wonderful
I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside
over the christening of all children, I should ask that her
gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible
that it would last throughout life. ...
who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength
that will endure as long as life lasts.